Inside Man

Solidly constructed con/heist flick, though Spike Lee wobbles a bit walking a fine line between unveiling the mechanics of the con while leaving dubious character motivations up for discussion. Some of the characters felt a little undercooked (who is Jodie Foster supposed to be?). That aside, the film features a strong cast (especially the great supporting work from Christopher Plummer and Chiwetel Ejiofor), and a well-executed plot. B.


Born Rich

Bored twenty-something heir to the Johnson and Johnson family makes a documentary about the vexations of growing up rich. The film works best when he stops narrating and focuses on his friends (including Ivanka Trump and the brutally honest heir to the Whitney/Vanderbilt fortune). Mostly enjoyable, often revealing, and provides a few laugh-out-loud moments, including finance heir Stephanie Ercklentz’s revelation that not all consumers can buy $500 shoes, or that some people are still “doing paper” (you know, for writing and other archaic pasttimes). B-.

The Dying Gaul

Vengeful love triangle story that performs a spectacular bellyflop at the end. The DVD even ships with an alternate ending, which must be the producers’ way of saying, “we know, it stinks.” Peter Saarsgard, miscast in Flight Plan and Jarhead, does his best work since Shattered Glass. Campbell Scott and Patricia Clarkson are also pitch-perfect. C.

We Got Pizzazz

This morning as I sat down to leaf through the main section of the Tribune before Renate took it for her commute, I discovered that the Chicago Transit Authority has named its newest subway line “The Pink Line.”

Not Silver, the second-runner up. Not Gold. Pink.

“I don’t think so,” said Joseph Santoyo, 18, as he stood at the entrance of the Cermak branch’s California stop on the border of Little Village and Lawndale. “Let’s take the Pink Line? No.”

I’m with this guy. I mean — Pink? I can hear people giving directions now. “I’m just off the Pink Line near Cermak. When you get off the train, take the Gum Drop path through the Lollipop Forest…”

Indeed, even male CTA board members embraced the color, though unlike their female counterparts they did not wear pink to the meeting.

I tried on a pink shirt at Banana Republic last weekend and Renate laughed me right out of it.

Indeed, the vibrancy of such shades of pink has made the color appealing to both men and women, [color psychologist Leatrice] Eiseman said. Designs on some snowboards and skateboards now include pink. Pink also is the name of a chain of men’s clothing stores that started in the United Kingdom, selling pink shirts, among other things.

“And it’s not only in the younger age groups,” Eiseman said of men donning pink. “Donald Trump has taken to wearing pink ties.”

Look, there’s a difference between wearing a pink tie and riding a pink bicycle down the street, and a Pink Line will be the Mass Transit version of a pink bicycle. (I think Joseph Santoyo has my back here.) Why does the idea of a Pink Line bother some men? Because a man on a pink bicycle is funny, and not in a good way. This man will be mocked by friends. Male friends, to be precise. You might as well put a few streamers on the handlebars of that bicycle and stick the guy on a roasting spit. We have our dignity, after all, at least until we get married and our wife feels free to laugh at us in clothing stores.

“I think it’s got a lot of charm to it,” [CTA President Frank Kruesi] said. “It brings a smile to people’s faces. That’s not bad as a start for someone hopping on a train.”

This is what happens when you decide to name something by throwing open the doors to suggestions from K-8 students, as the CTA did.

The suggestions included everything from electric lime and Chicago sunset to twinkle, a sparkly silver. Indeed, if some had their way, the line would have been renamed buttercup, shamrock, teal wheel, or, as one suggested, reddish afternoon.

Here’s where I first cracked a smile. “The Buttercup Line.” Now that’s funny.

“What’s wrong with the colors orange, brown, blue, green, purple and red?” wrote one 6th grader, a pink supporter, ticking off six of the seven colors on the system (the seventh is yellow). “Well, I know. Where’s the pizzazz? … It’s all about pizzazz.”

Seriously, people, it is all about pizzazz. Maybe Frank is right, because the Pink Line has definitely started my day with a smile.

“As long as it doesn’t affect service, I don’t care,” [said Gus] Alvarado who hopes the new route will get him to O’Hare more quickly. “It could be called chartreuse.”

And that’s the bottom line, isn’t it. I’m sure some (men) probably raised an eyebrow at The Purple Line when it first debuted. But let’s face it people, it’s all about pizzazz these days, and pink is the new purple.

Newbury Film Series Redesigned and ‘Re-aligned’

Over the past month, the Newbury Film Series website has undergone some stylistic updates, a little re-organization, and a bit of a re-alignment (a la the Cameron Moll method) to nudge it in the direction of becoming a more resourceful destination for Boston-area filmmakers.

Stylistically speaking, the site is a bit smoother and softer than before, though the changes are subtle. Who doesn’t love gradients and dashed borders?

To keep things a bit more orderly, I worked up consistent local navigations for sections that required them (such as the youth filmmaking and events pages) and put every page into its own directory, thus keeping the URLs tidier.

In terms of ‘re-aligning’ the site (a great concept that can push redesigns beyond cosmetics), I created some homepage features that allow filmmakers to interact with the site by sending in photos from their film shoots and encouraging visitors of all ilk to submit their own ‘7 Questions,’ a feature we hope to grow over time. I am teetering on the edge of loading the site in to Expression Engine to make updating it remotely a snap and to allow greater user interaction. But one major sitewide update at a time.

Have a look (and be sure to check out some of the PSAs and Documentaries created by the NFS’ youth filmmaking participants!):

Observations on Chicago

After nearly six months in our new hometown, here’s what I’ve learned:

  1. Boston drivers are bad; Chicago drivers are dangerous. You may as well be wearing a bullseye on your back when trying to use a crosswalk in this town.
  2. Many people now believe it is socially acceptable to wear a wireless cell phone head set all day (even while eating dinner at a restaurant). I saw these ridiculous flashing earpieces maybe twice a month in Boston; I see them several times a day in Chicago. Ugh.
  3. The irony of running a recycling program by requiring Chicagoans to put their recyclables in disposable blue bags is, apparently, lost on the city.
  4. When trying to catch the Damen bus, don’t bother using the schedule. It’s worthless.
  5. Brown and green line trains run counter-clockwise in the loop; purple and orange line trains run clockwise.
  6. Don’t take a scooter onto Lake Shore Drive. You might die.
  7. The Children’s Museum kicks a–.
  8. Starbucks is Chicago’s Dunkin’ Donuts; you can’t go two blocks without seeing one.
  9. No one has heard of our neighborhood (North Center).
  10. You will never have a bad meal at Kitsch’n. (You might, however, have a seizure while looking at their website.)
  11. Enacting a smoking ban in Boston was a picnic compared to the pseudo-ban that barely got passed here in December. I’ve never seen so much hand-wringing in my life. Entire countries are now smoke-free, but apparently Chicago’s economy will tank if all taverns ban smoking.
  12. The Tribune’s John Kass is sort of Chicago’s Brian McGrory.
  13. BYOB also kicks a–.
  14. Free museum day at the Aquarium is kind of a bust.
  15. The only two books to read while riding the El are A Million Little Pieces and Devil in the White City.
  16. Living on the Brown Line for the next four years might just suck.
  17. Goose Island is not just a beer, it is an actual island formed by a split in the Chicago River.
  18. It is a routine occurrence for ice to fall from the tops of skyscrapers on Michigan Avenue during the winter, so you might as well just suck it up and hope for the best (or look like an idiot running to work while covering your head).